Leggett plans to continue grant program for use of Silver Spring public space -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has budgeted $100,000 in the coming fiscal year for a program that lets community groups rent public space in downtown Silver Spring for events.

This would be the second year of funding for the Community Access Pilot Program, which started with $200,000 in the current fiscal year — half from Leggett, half from the Montgomery County Council.

Leggett’s new request is for the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget. The county council can either keep Leggett’s funding commitment in the budget, match his $100,000 allocation or abolish the program, officials said.

Of the $200,000 in the current fiscal year’s budget, about $135,000 is still available to community groups, said Ramona Bell-Pearson, assistant county chief administrative officer.

She said money was given to about 25 applications through the Community Access Pilot Program, which began in October 2012. The program provides grants to nonprofit groups unable to afford the rental fees at the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

“The primary purpose was to have assistance available to the community to gain access to using the building,” Bell-Pearson said Friday.

Because the funds were not available until October 2012 for the current fiscal year, Bell-Pearson said, applicants can get money for approved events after June 30 as long as their application is in by the deadline date.

Recipients are determined by a review committee that includes a member of the executive staff, a member of the council, a representative from the Regional Services Center and the building’s operation manager. Every applicant that has applied thus far has received at least partial funding, Bell-Pearson said.

Applicants are rated on a scale of up to 50 points based on not-for-profit status, need of financial assistance, how the event supports the county’s mission and how it serves county citizens. Bell-Pearson said whatever percentage applicants receive of the 50 points is the percentage of the requested money that they get.

So far, Bell-Pearson said, about $65,000 has been spent on events such as a community inauguration celebration, a couple dances organized based on folk music aimed at recognizing and supporting community diversity, and several festivals that have been approved for spring and summer.

Whatever funding is left over from the program after June 30 will go toward the upkeep of the building, Bell-Pearson said, including the upkeep of the hardwood floors and the restrooms.

She said her office is excited about the diversity of applicants.

“We are meeting different aspects of the community, and that was the executive’s objective all along,” Bell-Pearson said.

krose@gazette.net